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Jim Gillum as chief cop makes my job too easy

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 31, 2002

Here's an early start on tomorrow's festivities.

Psssst. Jim Gillum, he of the questionable campaign contributions and questionable gift acceptance, he of the multiple taxpayer-funded telephone calls to a girlfriend he later put on his payroll and who once had his driver's license taken away for allegedly not paying child support -- is looking for a law enforcement job in Pasco County.

What's that, you say, April Fool?

No, really, Gillum wants to be police chief of Zephyrhills when Chief Bob Howell retires in October.

Gillum wants to be police chief of "Zypherhills" or "Zyperhills." He spelled it both ways in his application letter to City Manager Steve Spina, but there is no requirement in Florida law that senior law enforcement officials be able to spell the names of their jurisdictions either correctly or consistently.

Actually, I'm all in favor of Gillum getting the job. There has been entirely too much competent law enforcement in too many local jurisdictions (not counting Inverness) lately, and while that might serve to provide for the general welfare and safety of the public, it makes for lousy column material.

Dade City once had a police chief become a fugitive before his arrest on charges of dealing in stolen property; former Zephyrhills police Chief Bill Eiland was once fired by a crackpot City Council triumvirate that claimed he and his brother-in-law, the mayor, were operating a major smuggling operation and that the mayor's garage contained pallets full of marijuana.

Eiland was cleared; his accusers were nuts and the mayor actually showed me what was in his garage -- a pallet full of 50-pound bags of manure which was, at least, some really good, er, manure. But there was never any shortage of things to write about.

Most Pasco sheriffs, until the present one, have, one way or another, provided colorful news. One was removed from office, indicted on criminal charges and later acquitted; one had deputies staking out prosecutors who were investigating the department, and one was alleged to have threatened to squash a county commissioner "like a bug" and then refused to take a polygraph exam after the commissioner passed one.

I'll give Port Richey a pass today under the heading of Shooting Fish in a Barrel, and make only passing mention of a former Inverness chief's flipping out at a burger flipper; let's just say the area, up until fairly recently, wasn't without its colorful law enforcement moments, many of them provided by Jim Gillum.

Gillum's answer, by the way, is that the liberal media, to whom he has also referred as communists (I think at the same news conference where he was proposing stacking jail prisoners, including those who haven't been convicted of anything, like "cordwood") are involved in a longtime conspiracy to make his life miserable and to keep him out of public life.

Actually, for reasons I can't quite fathom myself, I like Gillum personally. At his birthday party one year he and a bunch of his deputies filled the interior sweatband of my hat with their business cards, giving them all a good laugh when they fell out later as I put my hat on the bar at a biker hangout.

And Gillum gave as good as he got at a charity roast in 1992.

"I can count on my middle finger the number of times he has had something good to say about the Sheriff's Office," he said while roasting me. He later showed me the digit to which he referred.

The privacy of someone not a public figure keeps me from going into detail, but I also saw Gillum do something recently for one of his family members that I respected and admired him for.

And Zephyrhills could do worse.

When it fired Eiland back in the 1970s, the city hired a guy who had either falsified or exaggerated nearly every item on a multiple-page resume and who caused more trouble in a few months than the average police chief could create in a career. I know Gillum's chances of getting the "Zyperhills" job are slim.

But I can dream.

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